Student Blog: how to deal with pressure at university

A soon-to-be graduate student offers her tips to manage stress and pressure during exams, thesis work or university applications
April 11 2016

Whether it’s a demanding upcoming exam, the bachelor’s or master’s thesis that needs to be perfected, or applying to a university; these “little projects” are associated with factors influencing your future and therefore the pressure can lead to anxiety, frustration and sometimes sheer despair. In the end, most of the energy that could have been used for facing the hurdles gets put into destructive action, such as worrying and overthinking. So, what can be done about it?

First thing’s first, actions or events have the meaning and importance that you give them. This basically means that you can control or at least influence the emotional heaviness that is sapping you. You are not (completely) at the mercy of destiny. Realising this changes a lot! Essentially, when worrying, suffering and overthinking, you are stuck in the moment, overwhelmed by everything and not able to act efficiently. The important thing is not to be controlled by the situation and to maintain autonomy. But how can this be achieved?

Strategies for putting things in perspective

One reliable strategy is relativisation. Is it really that important to receive a certain grade? Is a successful career and future linked with admission to a certain university? In the majority of cases, a grade or event is not as vital as you initially thought. Moreover, relativisation helps you to keep a level head, which in turn increases your chances of achieving your objectives in the end.

Second, keep your eyes on the size of your investment. More precisely, honestly answer questions on how much effort you want, and can, put into a project. In the end, it is a cost-benefit calculation and at some point you are harming yourself if you invest too much energy, worry and money. After relativising, you can ask yourself: “How much is it worth?” This has nothing to do with resignation or rejecting your goals; you can only obtain clarity and realism by reflecting on your efforts.

Third, try to find an attractive plan B. Try to avoid depending on just one plan. Having alternatives makes you aware of your ability to choose. Again, this can help you to keep watch on the emphasis you put on, for example, admission to a certain university. With more options, you can face a challenge and be more relaxed.

However, when it comes to exams or your thesis, choices and alternatives are not always available. The following strategies aim to optimise your academic abilities.

Strategies for more efficiency, endurance and focus

First, address your motivation. Simply put, ask yourself why you are doing what you are doing. Try to see the big picture and remind yourself why it is worth the trouble.

What is more, this can help to develop a specific study plan and sort out your priorities. However, do not invest too much time in developing your plan; it can be tempting to remain in that stage since you will likely feel very efficient doing it, but resist! Part two is more important: adhere to your schedule, stick it out and reward yourself after intense study sessions.

Finally, prevent or at least decrease distraction. Turn off your mobile, tidy your work desk and try to create a quiet and calm environment. To increase your performance, make sure you drink enough water and that your room is regularly aired. Additionally, exercising or going for a walk can help get your circulation going; move your body and your mind will follow.

Great objectives can truly challenge us. Sometimes they bring us to our limits, but by facing them, we learn a lot about ourselves, our hidden strengths and weaknesses, our emotions and goals. Maybe the most important thing to take away from this article is to retain your ability to act.

What remains to be said? Stay calm, breathe deeply and just enjoy a great opportunity to learn something about yourself and to develop as an academic and a person.

Reader's comments (1)

I think you could do more research and describe this topic much wider.

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